Effect of size and shape of metal particles to improve hardness and electrical properties of carbon nanotube reinforced copper and copper alloy composites
Utilizing the extra-ordinary properties of carbon nanotube (CNT) in metal matrix composite (MMC) for macroscopic applications is still a big challenge for science and technology. Very few successful attempts have been made for commercial applications due to the difficulties incorporating CNTs in metals with up-scalable processes. CNT reinforced copper and copper alloy (bronze) composites have been fabricated by well-established hot-press sintering method of powder metallurgy. The parameters of CNT-metal powder mixing and hot-press sintering have been optimized and the matrix materials of the mixed powders and composites have been evaluated. However, the effect of shape and size of metal particles as well as selection of carbon nanotubes has significant influence on the mechanical and electrical properties of the composites. The hardness of copper matrix composite has improved up to 47% compared to that of pure copper, while the electrical conductivity of bronze composit e has improved up to 20% compared to that of the pure alloy. Thus carbon nanotube can improve the mechanical properties of highly-conductive low-strength copper metals, whereas in low-conductivity high-strength copper alloys the electrical conductivity can be improved.